Persona 5 Strikers (Switch) Hands-on Preview
Last month, we brought you an early preview of Persona 5 Strikers, the Warriors-style spinoff/sequel to Persona 5. At the time, we were only able to present you with a preview of the PS4 version of the game, based on a video shown to us by Five Star Games and Atlus. Now, we’ve had a good chunk of time with the game on Switch, and can talk a little bit more about what’s on offer.
Like other previews I’ve written in the past, I’m going with the familiar question and answer format. If you have any further questions, be sure to ask in the comments below, and I’ll try to get back to you as soon as I can.
Let’s get stuck in!
Note: as a sequel to Persona 5, some aspects of this preview may be considered by some to be minor spoilers for that game and potentially to a lesser degree, Persona 5 Royal. It also contains very early game spoilers for Strikers itself. I’ve tried to avoid any major spoilers, but just in case, here’s the disclaimer: Read ahead at your own risk.
What is it?
Persona 5 Strikers is a canon(ish?) sequel to Persona 5, also known as “that game with Joker from Super Smash Bros. Ultimate”. Unlike Persona 5, Strikers drops the methodical turn-based RPG format and opts for the hectic, fast-paced action adventure format from Koei Tecmo’s Warriors franchise. That means you’re going to be slashing through enormous groups of enemies by mashing buttons on the controller — which honestly, feels just right for Persona. But that’s not all, Strikers actually features somewhat of a hybrid battle system; regular attacks are your standard, real-time attacks that you’re probably used to from games like Hyrule Warriors, while selecting spells and abilities pause the game, bringing up a menu not dissimilar to the turn-based menus of the original game. This allows you to plan out your spells, physical abilities, buffs and debuffs, as well as aim them at the right enemy, and examine their weaknesses and resistances. Pretty standard Persona stuff.
Set six months after the end of Persona 5 — the OG game or the anime, but not Persona 5 Royal — Persona 5 Strikers tells the story of the Phantom Thieves, reunited once more as they plan a fun summer road trip to forget about all the troubles in the world and just relax. Except, you know, this is a Persona game, so things don’t quite go to plan. All around Japan, people have been struck by sudden changes in behaviour, leading them to do and say things they’d never normally do. The police strongly suspect the Phantom Thieves, since sudden changes in behaviour are kinda their bread and butter, and start surveilling the team. One such investigator is the mysterious Zenkichi Hasegawa, a well-connected and seemingly well-informed public security officer, whose shady interaction with the Phantom Thieves makes him seem like he’s definitely going to have a major role in the future.
Meanwhile, Tokyo city is taken by storm by new pop idol and fashion icon Alice (who has a very on-the-nose Alice in Wonderland theme to her), and after a chance encounter with the star herself, Joker, Morgana, and Ryuji find themselves plummeting once more into the Metaverse. They’re reunited with their Personas (and their cool heist costumes), and discover that this is the “Jail” — this game’s version of Palaces — of Alice herself. What a shock! She’s been stealing people’s “Desires”, causing them to lose their minds and dedicate their lives to her. After returning to the real world, the crew returns to the real world, gathers the rest of the Thieves, and make plans to steal Alice’s heart, and free the people whose desires she’s taken captive. And it’s all cool as heck.
Oh, and they hired a new Phantom Thief called Sophia (codename Sophie) who’s a strange, rogue AI in semi-human form who dresses in a silicone tube and uses yoyos to attack enemies. Just in case you were wondering if Persona 5 Strikers was still weird as heck.
Do I need to play Persona 5 first?
Look, probably not? But it can’t hurt either. You could probably get by with no prior Persona 5 knowledge, but you’d also probably be a bit confused by some of the terminology they throw around at breakneck pace. It’s difficult to go more than a single sentence without having them mention Treasures or the Metaverse, or the coginitive world, or palaces and monarchs and calling cards. There’s also no real character introduction here, no background given for you, you’re expected to know these characters and their story right from the get go. As such, you won’t get an explainer on why there’s a talking cat, why everyone thinks that’s normal, or why you’re allowed to walk into some guy’s dingy old coffee shop and set up base on the top floor. That could be jarring for some, but for others, the story might not matter so much, and you might just be able to scrape by and deduct your way through it.
Persona 5 is a 100+ hour game, and getting through it all is a bit of a slog at the best of times (especially towards the end). Persona 5 Royal is even longer, and has a lot of stuff that simply won’t be canon to Strikers. But there is an alternative… Persona 5: The Animation. This is a 28-part anime series that tells the entire story of Persona 5, comprised of 26 twenty-minute episodes and two hour-long specials at the end. All up, it takes about 12 hours to watch through the whole thing, and it does a pretty damn good job of telling the story. It’s stylish, beautifully animated, is voice acted by the same cast as the games, and more importantly, it’s entirely available on Crunchyroll, even for free users. If you really want to get the full story, and don’t want to dedicate weeks of your life to playing through the original game (or can’t, because it’s still not on Switch for some reason), The Animation is far and away the best way to do that.
How does it run?
I’ll level with you, Persona 5 Strikers is not the prettiest game on Switch. It’s got some noticeable jaggies, which means it’s definitely running below native resolution, and there is the occasional slowdown. However, that slowdown is extremely rare, with the rest of the game running at a fairly solid 30fps. It helps, as well, that so much of the Persona experience is built around stylish menus and visuals, so even when the character models themselves look a bit rough around the edges, the effects and visuals around them always look pretty damn good.
It’s a solid argument for style over realism, and it pulls that balance off really really well — as you’d expect from a Persona game. Just be prepared for it to look a little ugly at times. It’s nothing game-breaking, in fact it doesn’t affect gameplay at all, with everything still visible and easily discernible on any size screen (I’ve tested from the Switch Lite all the way up to a 65″ TV), and rock-solid controls that feel closely connected to whatever is happening on screen. At the end of the day, it’s fun as heck, despite its technical hiccups, and that’s good enough.
Who’s it for?
The main two are obvious: Persona fans and Musou/Warriors fans. It’s definitely more Persona than Musou, with a not-insignificant amount of time spent wandering the real world and running through dungeons compared to the relatively small amount of time spent battling groups of enemies. Having said that, it’s got eight playable characters (at least where I’m up to), each with their own battle styles and abilities, as well as a tonne of Personas for Joker to harness, each with their own set of skills and abilities too. Keeping up with all of them — and making sure they’re leveled equally and not falling behind — can get a little bit overwhelming at times, so if you’re looking for a game you can just mindlessly mash your way through, this probably is not it. It can get quite difficult, even just in the first Jail, and while there are difficulty settings, if you’re unprepared you’re gonna get your butt handed to you.
Another person this might be for is music lovers. Persona 5 Strikers takes Persona’s jazzified soundtrack and turns it up to eleven, adding an insane hard rock undertone to some of the tracks. It’s perfect for a high-energy romp as you smash your way through hordes of enemies, and just about every new version of a song I’ve heard has been an absolute banger. You might remember Lyn’s performance of the Strikers version of Last Surprise at The Game Awards last year. Yeah, it’s all like that, and it’s all amazing.
Persona 5 Strikers launches on the Nintendo Switch eShop and at retail on the 23rd of February for the game’s standard edition, or the 19th of February for the digital deluxe edition. You can click here to preorder it on the eShop (deluxe here), or find yourself a bargain at retail by checking out our Aussie Bargain Roundup.
All screenshots and footage captured in-game using the Nintendo Switch’s native capture tool.